EDITORIAL: Heed UN Convention against Torture committee’s recommendations

DHAKA (The Daily Star) - Secret detention, torture and enforced disappearance must stop.

The recommendations that the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) committee has come up with recently in regard to Bangladesh are well overdue. The committee has expressed concerns about allegations of torture against law enforcers, and secret detention and enforced disappearance of citizens. Despite the fact that Bangladesh is a signatory to the UNCAT Charter, it took the country 20 long years to submit its first-ever report, which the committee noted with regret.

On the other hand, the committee has commended the government for taking some laudable steps—and rightfully so—such as amending eight laws, including the Custodial Torture and Death (Prevention) Act 2013 and the Prevention of Cruelty against Women and Children Act 2000.

The committee expects a progress report from the government in exactly a year from now, with due priority on three things which should receive serious attention: i) HC directives on custodial torture and death have to be followed; ii) independent bodies must be allowed to inspect the places of detention and carry out investigations on allegations made by detained individuals; and iii) NGOs assisting the UNCAT committee must be protected.

The UNCAT committee pointed out the prevalence of torture, arbitrary arrest, secret detention, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings in the custody of Rab—a law enforcing body that has proven to be above the law. Numerous accounts of family members of victims have revealed instances of plainclothes men picking up people from their homes without showing a warrant and illegally detaining them without producing them before the courts, in clear violation of the law. In many cases, those arrested remain in custody for weeks or months before being shown formally arrested or released while some remain “disappeared”. Between 2009 and 2018, at least 507 people have become victims of enforced disappearance, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.

The UNCAT committee has put forward 77 recommendations which the government should take into account. The committee has also urged the government to take steps to ensure that law enforcers stop these illegal practices and publish a list of all acknowledged detention centres. An independent probe commission dedicated to investigating allegations of torture, enforced disappearance, etc., must also be formed—and this, we believe, ought to be considered as a priority by the government if it wants to strengthen its image in the international arena.

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